- Bicycle Culture by Design: Scaring the 'Skit' Out of the Swedes

A Swedish reader of sent in this photo of a billboard in Stockholm. It is paid for by a non-governmental organisation called Nationalförenigen för trafiksäkerhetens Främjande [NTF] or The National Society for Road Safety.There is no mandatory helmet law in Sweden for adults but these NTF seem to think there should be one. The billboard reads:“A helmet law protects in more ways than one"Notice the bird shit on the helmet. You know you don’t have a solid scientific case when bird shit is your best Unique Selling Point.Anyway, our reader doesn’t fancy seeing fewer Swedes cycling - which is one of the primary consequences of a helmet law. A drop of 20-40% in the number of cyclists, which has been the decrease in all the regions with mandatory helmet laws, would be a catastrophe for Sweden.Our reader took the liberty to inform people of the dangers of a helmet law. The grafitti underneath the message “A helmet law protects in more ways than one…” is his work and it reads, quite simply:“Fewer choose the bicycle.“Wonderful when grafitti is married to rationality and common sense. A little bit of activism is more than welcome.Our reader asked me if I could come up with other slogans to add to the billboards. He’s spraypainted “Fewer Choose the Bicycle” on all the billboards in his area but is keen to finetune the message.Any great ideas out there among our helmet sceptical readers?Regarding this NTF organisation, their website is textbook fear-mongering. They link to two pro-helmet websites but not to any of the many helmet-sceptic websites out there.The Swedish people, like any people, deserve to be presented with both sides of the case if they are to make up their own minds. Refusing to highlight the many scientific studies that feature helmet-sceptic research is just wrong.Why is it so difficult to at the very least show both sides of the coin instead of insulting your citizens’ intelligence by trying to make up their minds for them? When you only show one side of the issue and pretend the other side doesn’t exist, it is propaganda. Nothing more, nothing less.While people like the NTF are doing what they can to promote helmets and reduce Swedish cycling levels, there are, fortunately, many orgs in Europe that are doing what they can to promote cycling positively. Thankfully.I couldn’t find any reference on the NTF website to promotion of helmets for pedestrians or motorists. Must be a mistake.Here’s an idea a friend of mine came up with. ‘In many countries there are Advertising Standards groups that promote decent, honest and truthful advertising. There must be a Swedish equivalent.‘‘It would be interesting if a Swede challenged this campaign on the grounds that the helmet is being presented as a road safety aid. It would be good to see how they defend the idea that cycle helmets, designed for simple falls, might be effective in road collisions.’

Interesting indeed.

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